Q: I purchased an electric coffee percolator several years ago. It's still working fine, but now I'm having a problem purchasing Dip-It by Reckitt Benckiser to clean it. I understand the company has stopped making it. I have tried using vinegar, and it did not work very well. Do you have any ideas on how I can make a Dip-It-like product myself? — Vickie
A: Growing up in Boise, Idaho (shoutout to all my Gem State readers), my parents had a percolator. I can still hear that coffee pot perking away in the mornings. And my mom used Dip-It to keep the thing clean, too.
Dip-It is now part of the Lime-A-Way brand, and it is known as Lime-A-Way Dip-It Coffeemaker Cleaner (about $6 for a 7-ounce bottle). I can only guess that Lime-A-Way hasn't quite figured out the original formula, as most reviewers say the new product is quite terrible — it's not the same as the old Dip-It, and it doesn't do the job. But not to worry. I have a quick and easy, reasonable way to duplicate the venerable Dip-It results and keep your coffee percolator beautifully clean.
Fill the percolator with water, and add 2 tablespoons cream of tartar (found in the grocery store spice aisle). Position the vertical tube, basket and lid just as if you were making a pot of coffee. Plug the percolator in, and let it perk away for a while. Unplug the machine, and let the water to cool. Scrub the pot with a plastic scrubber or other non-abrasive device, and rinse well. That should do the trick.
For my Dip-It diehards, a limited quantity of the original Dip-It is available online. Just be warned that it is priced to reflect its scarcity and costs about $40 for one 5-ounce package.
Q: I don't have a tip — I need one! I have laminate floors and would like to know of a good cleaner. Right now, I am using vinegar and water, and after mopping, I have to get on my hands and knees and dry the floors, otherwise they streak. Any suggestions? Thank you, and I love your column. — Amy
A: The best cleaner for both laminate and hardwood floors that I know of is one you can make yourself. And you can make it in any quantity you want, to either have on hand or use in the moment. But first an explanation: Vinegar is acidic. If you use it on flooring that has a finish, as both hardwood and laminate do, it will dull that finish over time and, in some cases, make it sticky. Tap water contains minerals, and if it's allowed to dry on these types of flooring, it can cause streaks and eventually a haze-like buildup. That means no vinegar and no tap water in your cleaner. The solution is made with alcohol because it cleans well, is not acidic and evaporates quickly. And distilled water is used, because it is mineral-free. Here's the recipe:
Mix 1 part alcohol (rubbing alcohol, vodka or gin) to 4 parts distilled water, plus a few drops blue Dawn dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle each time you clean the floors. If you make it up ahead, be sure to label it well and keep it out of reach of children. To use, simply spray a small area of the floor, scrub well with a mop or sponge and immediately wipe the area dry with a microfiber cloth. I've written more extensively about this recipe and how to use it well in the column "How to Clean and Care for Wood and Laminate Floors."
A: You recommend blue Dawn quite often. Does Dawn make an unscented cleaner that works as well? — Ann
Q: I do recommend original blue Dawn because I have found that it is a remarkable cleaner around the house and in the laundry. I've researched a bit about why it is different than any other liquid Dawn product, something I'm still working on. However, I'm convinced it has a specific, albeit proprietary, formulation that cuts grease like no other. Procter & Gamble, which owns and manufacturers Dawn products, does not have a version of Dawn in any color that states clearly "unscented." It does, however, manufacture Dawn Free & Gentle Dishwashing Liquid, which is hypoallergenic and dye-free. This version of Dawn seems to enjoy highly rated reviews.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.